GOTTA HAND IT TO HIM

 

hand

As I was getting out of the pool today, a little boy sitting on the top step looked me up and down and said matter-of-factly:

“You’re squishy!”

“Squishy?” I repeated.

“Yes, squishy,” he said.

Now I may no longer have my 20-something body but I would hardly consider myself squishy. So I plunked myself smack down next to him and said:

“Exactly how am I squishy?”

He looked me up and down again, then changed his mind:

“No,” he said, “you’re not squishy. Actually, your crumbly.”

“Crumbly? Do you mean I’m crumbling?”

“Oh, no,” he said thoughtfully. “Just crumbly.”

“Where am I crumbly?” I asked him.

“Hmm…your face and on your hands.”

I opened up my hands.

“No, he said, on the back of your hands.”

I turned my hands over and saw all the freckles and age spots.

“Oh!” I said delightedly, “You mean I’m wrinkled and getting old?”

“Yes!” he squealed, as if I finally understood him.

“Well, guess what?” I said.

“What?” he said excitedly.

“I’m going to get even older and older and older and. . .”

“Then you’re gonna die!!” he yelled out with great enthusiasm as if he’d just completed the punch line to a joke.

“Yes, I will,” I replied a bit taken aback. “Does that bother you?”

“Oh no,” he said, “That just means that your human life will be over and then it will be time for your spiritual life to begin.”

“I see, and how do you know so many wise things?”

“Well, I am four and a half,” he said solemnly, “Life goes on and on and is always changing. Old things go out and new things come in.”

“Yes, I suppose you’re right. But will you do me a big favor?”

“Sure,” he said.

“Next time you see me, will you call me ‘speckled’ instead of ‘crumbly’?”

“Speckled?” he asked incredulously.

“Yes,” I said, “Speckled. Just think of me as a speckled egg.”

“A speckled egg?” he laughed. “That’s so funny. Okay. You’re a speckled egg!”

Well, I figure that’s better than being squishy and crumbly. 

 speckled egg

 

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A WORD TO THE WISE IS NOT SUFFICIENT

lunch

The FDA, “responsible for public health,” approved pesticides on crops in the 40’s,  birth control pills with life-changing, side effects in the 60’s, and Celebrex in the 90’s, which is now in the middle of a class action suit, and had Frances Kelsey not intervened, Thalidomide would have been approved for pregnant mothers in the 50’s as it was widely used in Europe.  A recent Harvard study says that even our everyday drugs, like Benadryl, sleeping pills and antihistamines contain diphenhydramine, which has recently been linked to Alzheimer’s and certain cancers.

 What was once touted as ‘healthy’ even 10 years ago, is no longer, ‘safe for human consumption.’ Whether it’s mercury in our fish and vaccines, chemical sprays on our fruits and vegetables or the cancer-causing ingredients like BHA, Parabens and Retinyl Palimitate in most of our skin products, we are contaminated–and not just by misinformation. However, the real guilt here lies not just with the FDA.  It really belongs to those scientists and researchers on the payrolls of big food and drug companies; the ones that cleverly present only portions of their findings and err on the side of those who grease their palm.

 The FDA has always approved, so many rat feces, hairs, fly eggs and maggots per pound of grain. Even frozen blueberries, “can contain up to 60% mold and include up to 10 insect parts and larvae, per 500 grams.” Ground spices like cinnamon have been found to contain the deadly Hantavirus, found in mouse excrement.  It gets worse.

 You know those metal, amalgam fillings in your mouth? The ones that your dentist told you were, ‘perfectly safe,’ 40 years ago? Well, they’re not. Over time, they corrode and all that mercury finds its’ way into your bloodstream and wreaks havoc. Many believe that it is responsible for everything from gut to mental disorders. My husband had his removed and wanted me to follow suit. Well, I’m still debating. Why? Because how do I know that 10 years from now ‘science’ won’t discover that his replacement fillings are even more deadly?

 In 5th grade, my class visited a ketchup factory. While my classmates admired the bottling process, I wandered out to where the trucks were unloaded. Thousands of pounds of tomatoes sat open in those trucks and they were quite a sight, only I wondered why they looked so green. That’s when I noticed that they seemed to be moving! They were covered by thousands of green worms!

“Oh, honey,” the foreman laughed, “Don’t worry!  Those are just cutworms. We boil them until they’re completely dead!”

 Anyway, it’s time for lunch. Here’s a picture and the recipe for mine:

big fistful of raw chopped spinach–fistful of my homegrown sunflower sprouts–1/2 cup cottage cheese–large, vine ripened tomato–artichoke hearts–hearts of palm–black jumbo olives–handful of raw pecans–1/2 sliced avocado–big drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and the delightful juice of one, entire lemon–with a dash of pink, Himalayan salt if I’m feeling terribly decadent.

 

 

 

    

THE HARDEST WORD TO SAY

Food Truck

 It’s only two letters. You’d think that it would fly right off the tip of your tongue. Nope. It protects you not just from yourself but also from others. It can be your strong defense or a gentle offense. It encourages you when you’re about to give up and discourages you when you want to do something that you shouldn’t. In the 1980’s, Nancy Reagan, during her anti-drug campaign, coined it in the phrase: “Just Say No!” At the time, people made fun of her but I think she was spot on.

 I have been saying, “No” since I was very young. You’d think I’d be a past master at it. Eh, not so much. Don’t get me wrong. I say it probably more than most. If you don’t do so with conviction and often, you’ll be run ragged by demands, expectations and guilt trips ad infinitum. Until recently, I was sure that most people my age also knew when to call it quits, not just at the gym or in relationships but in the workplace, too. They don’t.

Last weekend, 25 of us, ages 12 to 80, volunteered to unload food donations from across the city to replenish our community food bank. From 2-6 PM, outside in 97-degree heat, we sorted and boxed foodstuffs. We laughed, sang and talked through the work. By 5 PM, the 20 something’s finally figured out that they needed to do the heavy lifting and we older folks continued to bag and sort the incoming goods.

 By 5:30, I noticed that the much older man next to me was bright red in the face, perspiring and visibly wincing as he opened the incoming bags.

            “Darlin’,” I said to him, “It’s time for you to go home.”

            “Oh, no, I can’t,” he argued. “We still have a half hour left.”

            “That doesn’t matter,” I said. “You’ve been on your feet in this heat for 3 ½ hours. That’s more than enough. You’ve done great work. It’s time to go now.”

            “But I volunteered until 6,” he protested.

            “Sorry, we’re going,” I said, taking his arm.

            Reluctantly, he let me lead him away and out to his car. As he got in, the relief in his face was obvious.

            “Now go home, take a shower and put your feet up,” I said.

          For those of you reading, I advise the same.

           

 

          

UP TUMAMOC!!!

Up Tumamoc

Too many of us, old and young, are loathe to get out of our comfort zones. It’s nice feeling cozy in your routine, always knowing what the day will bring. Thing is you can’t grow by sitting still, anymore than a muscle gains strength without use. Any challenge, no matter how small, builds us and makes us bolder.

 Which explains the hike I took yesterday with my 24 year-old up Tumamoc Hill. It was billed as, ‘an easy, hike,’ until you read the fine print: It was a 750-foot ascent to the top and a three-mile round-trip! Now, I haven’t hiked in. . . Well I can’t actually remember when, but I did learn a thing or two along the way:

  1. Don’t over-analyze the route before you start or you may never take it.
  2. Swing your arms when you walk whether or not it makes you look foolish. It helps.
  3. The real climb is in your head. Your legs are just there for support.
  4. Don’t worry if someone passes you. Don’t even notice or you’ll alter your own momentum. Besides, you may pass them later on.
  5. Don’t be afraid to pause and admire the view. It will help you catch your breath if nothing else.
  6. Encourage your fellow travellers. You are in this together.
  7. Don’t be shy asking for help. Most people love to offer it and it makes them feel important.  (My daughter’s left shoulder was a great support to me most of the way back down as I have no knees.) 
  8. When you’ve gone as far as you can, turn around and look how far you’ve come.  It will encourage you to go further.
  9. Be present in each step and reaching the end won’t feel so overwhelming.
  10. And finally:

 The view from the top is exactly the same as it was from the bottom, only now you can see it!!!

 

DRINK UP!!

coffee

 Just imagine how delighted I was to read this week that drinking coffee actually lowers your risk of developing dementia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease and Type 2 Diabetes by 65%. Not only that, it seems that drinking up to four cups of the lovely stuff a day might well be the charm. This information came from several studies over a long period of time and you can Google them for yourself.

 But that’s not all. Not only is coffee rich in B vitamins and minerals but it is also loaded with antioxidants. Caffeine, it turns out, not only increases your metabolism but also enhances brain function by blocking adenosine. In addition, coffee drinkers have an 84% lower risk of developing cirrhosis of the liver and a 40% lower risk of developing liver cancer. Even better? Coffee drinkers have lower rates of depression and suicide. No wonder I’m so happy!

 But lest you get too giddy reading the above, I also want to counter these findings with another article that I read in The New Yorker this week. It was entitled, “Why Facts Don’t Change Our Opinions.” Apparently, we humans are subject to something called, “confirmation bias.” That is, we tend to embrace information that supports our beliefs and reject information that contradicts them.

 Incredulously, our bodies actually release dopamine when we read or hear information that supports our beliefs. Uh oh. Maybe I’m doped up right now?? “As a rule, strong feelings about issues do not emerge from deep understanding.” Another ‘uh-oh.’

 I guess it all goes to say that you should take these lovely findings on coffee with a grain of salt. (Whatever you do, don’t put those grains in your coffee). As for me, I am blissfully looking forward to my double espresso with non-fat milk tomorrow morning. I will sprinkle it with cinnamon and nutmeg, both of which are known to boost the immune system, strengthen cognitive function and lower heart disease risk. Oh, and did I mention that they also are anti-inflammatory agents? So, drink up my friends. Drink up!  

DYING TRYING

helen-on-a-bike

There is a reason I am on this bike for the first time after almost 15 years. Research says that if I really want to be a, ‘super ager,’ I NEED to feel pain. I need to get out of my, ‘comfort zone’ and really tax my mind & body. Otherwise, my brain tissue will merely be ‘thin’ and that is NOT good. Thank you science and the rest of you folks who are forever changing your mind about we should and shouldn’t do.

A recent article in the New York Times says that, “In the United States, we are obsessed with happiness. But as people get older, research shows, they cultivate happiness by avoiding unpleasant situations. This is sometimes a good idea, as when you avoid a rude neighbor. But if people consistently sidestep the discomfort of mental effort or physical exertion, this restraint can be detrimental to the brain. All brain tissue gets thinner from disuse. If you don’t use it, you lose it.”

Dr. Anna Lembke, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Stanford has just thrown her hat in the ring, as well. She says that 100 years ago, doctors believed that some pain had a, ‘salutatory effect on the body, providing both a physiologic and spiritual benefit.’ However, in the time since, pain has become, “something to avoid at all costs.” Thus, the over-prescription of painkillers and the ensuing opioid epidemic.

Quite frankly, I thought I was doing OK by swimming a half-mile a day, playing a few games of competitive tennis, practicing my scales on piano and guitar and writing. Apparently not. Apparently, I am supposed to PUSH myself…not merely MOVE myself. Well, thank you very much, science.

Kudos also to my sister-in-law, Cathy, who keeps me posted on all things Alzheimer’s and aging! So, dear girl, this blog is for you. Thank you for personally whipping me into shape whether I like it or not. Right now, my knees are aching, I am winded from the hills and quite frankly, if this will help me be a ‘super-ager,’ I shall be indebted to you. If not, at least I died trying!!

A TEMPORARY FIX

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 I was shocked today to learn that a friend of mine, fully 15 years my junior, recently had Botox. Granted, she does look a bit more relaxed and slightly more youthful about the face. But bottom line? It won’t last. It’s like wearing a pushup bra. You look pretty hot, until you take it off that is. Time marches on and despite our temporary fixes, we will indeed, age, infirm and die.

 Consider this: I have worked out almost every day of my life for the last 40 some years. Yes, it has paid off in terms of ‘staying fit,’ but really? My workouts have become shorter and less aggressive over the years. My rotator cuff is hanging by a thread and my knees are shot. So, though I swim a half-mile a day, and do yoga and play a bit of tennis, the decline is continuous and certain. I’ll be honest. I am watching myself go downhill piece by piece, although I am trying to stay upbeat about it all.

 Then you add the actual statistics. Right now, 1,000 people a day are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. 1% of us will have it by age 60. By the time we reach 85, fully 40% of us will have it. Not only that, the disease itself will begin a full 10 years before we even notice the symptoms! There is NO cure. There is NOTHING that will slow it down and even science says that at this point, “nothing can be done to stave it off.”

 Oh sure, you can exercise, eat well and get Botox. But frankly? That’s like getting a polio vaccine after you already have polio. If you’re lucky, you’ll be one of those,‘super agers,’ and the disease won’t even darken your door. If you’re an average Joe, though, you’d better get your affairs in order: make a Living Will, find someone you trust and make them your power of attorney, and if you want to spend your final years at home, keep your eyes open for a good caretaker!! I am ALWAYS looking—even at the supermarket!

 My advice? Close your computer right now. Turn off your cell phone and walk outside. Look up at the sky. Notice how cumulonimbus clouds merge into cirrus and keep on moving. Whether you see stars or mountains, sea or cactus, love the view. Realize that whatever you see before you right now, you will someday not see at all.  Be grateful for the moment, this moment. Now.